Australia reports new bird flu case day after first human infection

The human case found in Australia is of the same H5N1 strain that has spread rapidly around the world

Gareth Jones
Thursday 23 May 2024 12:18 BST
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This 2005 electron microscope image shows an avian influenza A H5N1 virion
This 2005 electron microscope image shows an avian influenza A H5N1 virion

A new case of highly pathogenic avian influenza has been detected at a poultry farm in Australia’s southeastern Victoria state, officials said on Thursday, a day after the country reported its first human case of the virus and also a strain on an egg farm.

The human case found in Australia is of the same H5N1 strain that has spread rapidly around the world but the ones detected on the farms in Victoria are of the different H7N3 strain.

Agriculture Victoria, in a statement, linked the strain detected at the poultry farm in the Terang region to that reported at the egg farm in Meredith, where it said “the H7N3 high pathogenic strain of avian influenza virus has resulted in numerous poultry deaths”.

“The property in Terang is directly connected with the Meredith property, through joint management, staff and machinery,” it said.

The statement quoted Victoria’s Chief Veterinarian Graeme Cooke as saying that Agriculture Victoria staff were on the ground to help contain and eradicate the virus.

Victoria was also the site of an H7N7 outbreak in 2020, the most recent of Australia’s nine outbreaks of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) since 1976. All were quickly reined in and stamped out, the government says.

Bird Flu
Bird Flu (Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

In the United States, a second human case of bird flu has been confirmed since the virus was first detected in dairy cattle in late March, US officials said on Wednesday.

The H5N1 outbreak among dairy cattle in at least nine U.S. states since late March has raised questions over whether it could spread to humans.

The gruesome symptoms of a dairy farm worker who contracted avian flu from an infected cow in America were revealed in a new medical study this month.

Avian Influenza Eye Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza A(H5N1) Virus Infection in a Dairy Farm Worker
Avian Influenza Eye Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza A(H5N1) Virus Infection in a Dairy Farm Worker (The New England Journal of Medicine)

The photo of the employee, who is based in northern Texas, shows both of their eyes with burst blood vessels. In the right eye, there was also yellowish fluid which typically leaks out of a wound.

The employee suffered a subconjunctival hemorrhage, according to the New England Journal of Medicine (NJEM) study. The patient tested positive for influenza A and A (H5) virus based on eye and nasal swabs. Medical officials say that the symptoms closely resembled pink eye, an inflammation that causes the eye to turn red.

The dairy worker, who was not identified, did not suffer from symptoms typically associated with avian flu such as fever, coughing or sneezing, meaning that the illness might not be easily transmittable from person to person. The worker was treated for the symptoms with oral oseltamivir, an anti-viral medication, and later recovered from the illness.

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